STEM Research End of Course Reflection


EDU6978 – Introduction to STEM Research was an enjoyable course that helped me better understand the STEM model and ways of implementing formative assessment techniques in my classroom. The course started by introducing the initial purpose of STEM, as a way to integrate math, science, engineering (problems solving) and technology into high school courses to prepare students for work in industry. We discussed there are different models for STEM that are being implemented, sTEm, SteM, S | T | E | M and STEM. Each capitalized letter represents an emphasis a school puts on each subject, while dividers separate the courses into discrete subjects not connected. We learned that the intent of STEM was to share the responsibility equally over all four topics and help students notice as many connections between these as possible.

While discussing formative assessment, my biggest take away from the course was the sections about how to appropriately question students. Wiliam’s (2011) Embedded Formative Assessment book. From this section, Wiliam (2011) stresses using randomness to select students for answering questions in class for assessment. Randomness allows teachers to hear all students equally, not just the most vocal and engaged in class. Additionally, Wiliam cites research (Brosseau, 1984) who suggests participation should not be optional and that students must be held accountable for answering questions by the teacher to remain engaged in the content. To aid in this, teachers should ask questions first and then select students to respond, this helps students to always be ready to answer. As soon as a solution is deemed correct, students stop thinking so it is important to avoid Initiate-Respond and Evaluate (IRE) style classroom banter. I had never thought bout making answering mandatory and have been searching for ways of helping include all students in class.Talk Moves

While watching the questioning presentation for module 3 and talking with another teacher at a conference over the summer, I learned about Talk Moves. These are a way for teachers to ask questions of students and help them explore more, some examples include revoicing student statements to help them hear about their reasoning (even if their logic is flawed), saying, “tell me more about that” to help students articulate their thinking, asking another student to restate a comment, waiting for students to think while responding to the group and more. As I continue, I want to improve my questioning skills and ability to help ask questions that make students think. I would really like to improve as a questioner in helping students think without scaring students away from the conversation. I have already set a goal to write some socratic questions, possibly those used in talk moves, and will work at incorporating these more into my rhetoric as a teacher engaging students in inquiry learning. I am really excited to implement some of this research, I think that the Embedded Formative Assessment book by Wiliam (2011) is has several practical, simple to implement ideas that improve teachers instruction and help students become more aware of their learning, understandings and misunderstandings. Now that I have this knowledge, it’s time to introduce the students.


Brousseau, G. (1984). The crucial role of the didactical contract in the analysis and construction of situations in teaching and learning mathematics (G. Seib, Trans.). In H.-G. Steiner(Ed.), Theory of mathematics education:ICME5 topic area and miniconference (Col. 54, pp. 110-119). Bielefeld, Germany: Insitut für Didktik der Mathematik der Universität Bielefeld.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Solution Tree Press.



M3 bPortfolio Reflection – STEM Research

My ideas of STEM have changed slightly, but significantly since beginning the course. I have learned about the different models of STEM (Henrikson, 2015):

  • SteM – Science and Math are the “bookends” and most important
  • STEM – Integrated focus for both math and science – T&E are integrated and focused on contend and application
  • S | T | E | M – each discipline stands on its own
  • s(TE)m – increased focus on CTE classes that help prepare for selected careers in science, math, technology an engineering.

The best model according to Lantz (2009) is that STEM should be well integrated into the curriculum and that teachers should be collaborating to create cohesive units of instruction that help students learn about all topics together. One tool for accomplishing a truly effective STEM model that was discussed in our class discussions was common planning time across disciplines to help teach similar concepts in different classes. Verlaine (discussion post in Module 2) shared her collaborative approach within her school district, a push for cross curricular teaching. Additionally, Verlaine supported her claims of this effectiveness of teaching similar subject by citing psychological research (Medina, 2008) for increasing long-term memory by repeating information multiple times, within a short period of time using different modalities.

Wiliams (2011) discusses how the use of questioning is important for teachers to formatively asses student understanding to inform next steps in teaching. I assume he would support the STEM model, where each element has an equal share of a given lesson. This assumption is based on his desire to ask inquiry questions such as, “What do you notice?” Earlier this year, I was introduced to an NCTM lesson called “The Hexagon Train Task.” I was part of a group of math and science teachers, we were given four yellow plastic hexagons and asked to line them up “end to end” where a long side would touch another. We were then asked to ]reflect on what we noticed about the aligned hexagons. Some mentioned the color, some discussed the perimeter, others discussed the shape, but overall our ideas were broadened to to accept the next question because of our ability to think abstractly was opened. Soon after, we were asked to think about perimeter and how this could be calculated for longer “trains.” We were just told the purpose of the activity (only slightly though, but the instructor had a clear academic purpose for the lesson, sequences). Having the opportunity to think generally before getting specific allowed both the math and the science people around the table consider a question without fear of being incorrect. Sometimes I struggle with IRE (Initiate, Response, Evaluate) which is off putting to many students, I think I can incorporate more of this open discussion and individual reflection into my lessons this coming year.

Some of our discussions in Module 2 & 3 were about purpose with instruction. STEM cannot be accomplished without clear purpose. Provided that many of us took a methods course about Understanding by Design by Wiggins & McTighe (2005) which stated the purpose of the lesson should drive the activities and goals should establish each lesson (rather than the other way around). This method (backwards design), is at the heart of educational research and is supported by Williams (2011, p. 61). In our class discussions for Module 3 about Project/Problem Based Learning, comments arose about the intent of the learning, rather than the activity itself. Lura’s post about the Rube Goldberg Machine commented on her investigation of PBL activities found on the internet. She mentioned, “Many so-called ‘STEM’ lessons that I did find weren’t anything new, just standard math or science lessons with some videos added about applications” I think this is part of the challenge with PBL is that the purpose should be the beginning of the project, not the act of completing a project, making a presentation or doing STEM. The purpose should be to meet educational standards where multiple modalities should be used to approach concepts. Projects could include multiple standards from a variety of subjects, but that’s not necessary.

Overall, I have learned that STEM should be well integrated. To accomplish this, teachers from different subjects need to work together and students need to work in collaborative groups facilitated by a teacher. The planning can be though common planning time (which is becoming more typical in schools) or it could be through another framework of providing collaborative work time for teachers. Lessons should be revised and adjusted based on formative feedback and through a teachers understanding of unique students needs. Finally, when planning projects, there is a general consensus (although not by all) that the purpose should come first and activities should support the learning of those targets.


Henrikson, R. (Lecturer) (2015, June 22). Module 2 What is STEM. EDU6978 Module 2 Course Lecture. Lecture conducted from , Seattle, WA.

Lantz Jr, H.B. (2009). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. What form? What function. Baltimore, MD:  Report, CurrTech Integrations.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wiliam, D. (2011).  Embedded formative assessment.  Bloomington, IN:  Solution Tree.

P1 – Intentional Inquiry and Planning

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. This means that classroom teacher plans instruction around a learning target and creates a lesson which encourages students to critically think about the function of the learning target. Within the realm of mathematics, students should build intuition around how mathematical processes and can therefore build from current understandings to unique situations in the future. For a teacher, building this intuition must be well planned.

Student Work Matrix POGILStudent Work Matrix POGIL2Student Work Matrix POGIL3 Student Work Matrix POGIL4

Student Work Matrix POGIL5Student Work Matrix POGIL6

In the images, I’m presenting the work of a group of students who completed a group inquiry activity that was monitored me. While POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) activities are highly structured and I lack the training to adequately design a true POGIL, this is my best attempt at guiding students through mathematical concepts using discovery as the motivator for the lesson. This POGIL is about matrix multiplication, the purpose of this activity was to build on their prior experiences of matrices, create intuition about mathematical practices, and assist students in making meaning behind matrix multiplication. Many students know the procedure, yet few understood how this process was applicable in the real world.

This classroom activity was built and designed by me, although I used a textbook to find problems with student interest in mind and adapted the questions to fit my instructional goals. Since this activity was designed by me, this demonstrates I am able to ask students good questions which lead to conceptual understanding. This also shows my ability to plan for 100 minutes of instruction and facilitate an activity, probing students for more advanced thinking.

While planning this activity, I learned about how challenging it is to create clear questions which lead students to understanding of the learning targets. Since I teach multiple sections of the same course, after each class, I revised my questions to ensure each question challenges students and leads them to more complete understanding of matrix multiplication. Students also state they enjoy the POGIL’s as a learning activity. Students get to work in groups and ask questions to their peers. Providing group based activities, students break the routine of back to back 100 minute learning segments. Additionally, this provides students the opportunity to practice new skills without the traditional “drill and kill” of many math classroom. Practicing with inquiry also helps students create meaningful understanding rather than the process of symbol manipulation alone.

When designing lessons, it may be useful within my lesson plans to prepare questions each day which probe at the students understanding. Also, I think that creating a classroom goal everyday (and actively writing it down in the lesson plan) will help lead to a meaningful result from the lesson. With a goal like “Students can understand the meaning and operations of matrix multiplication,” I can create quality lessons, ask questions which probe for understanding, and measure the effectiveness of my lesson.

Questioning Observation

Course: World Literature
Period: 2

In this class, the lesson was to review previous learning in preparation for a test the next day. When talking with the teacher the day before, the lesson was intended to be a socratic seminar, however, immediately before the lesson, a pedagogical decision was made to have the discussions be made in small groups. The questioning from the instructor was more general than asking several smaller questions but instructed students to discuss broad, open ended questions as groups. Questions included What need does the hero fill to fit the needs to their time? What does Gilgamesh give to his society? Who are the three most likable heroes? Why/ Which are the most intelligent? Why? What role does technology play in how stories are told throughout the ages?

Observing teacher behavior during the group responses to the question was the most interesting. The teacher consistently talked with table groups of about six or fewer and did not choose to talk as frequently with larger table groups. When she talked with each group, she probed only a few new questions, but generally retold some of the stories that were discussed in class. Questions generally were open ended (about 80%). Some of the closed questions were implied to have support, for example, choosing three heroes implied some justification as to why  those heroes were chosen.

In general, since the questions mostly guided group discussion, there were no repeated answers, some groups received more attention than others, but overall the questions were dispersed around each student. The last section which asked students a more sophisticated answer was conducted as a group debrief where some students shared out. All of the students that shared to the class were from the large group, 1 one female and three males (this mimics the gender makeup of this school). In talking with the teacher about the purpose for her questions, she responded that they were strategic in eliciting specific knowledge from the students and were intended to recall important, more synthesis of information was required to  demonstrated understanding. To ensure complete understanding across all of the groups, if I were to implement this technique in my classroom, I would like to debrief all questions, not just some of them to create a collective understanding of the important concepts for a test.

While such broad questions may not be useful in a math classroom, I think the group questioning is a valuable tool that can be implemented. I could provide a group problem and then circulate the classroom to check for understanding. A creative tool for helping student understand gar fundamentals of a mathematical concept is to have them explain their ideas as they would to a younger student. This generally required significant understanding to accomplish. I enjoyed the use of this teachers questioning to prepare students for a test, I can use some of these group question strategies in my own classroom.